Scotch pushes boundaries

It is a good time for retailers to focus on Scotch whisky.

Father’s Day is looming and an increasing array of whiskies – particularly in gift packs – make for a perfect present for dads of all ages. In addition, younger consumers are showing more interest and, while this may be a daunting category for some, a well-curated Father’s Day display could tempt new drinkers.

Taner Djevdet, London key account manager at Indie Brands, says: “Scotch can be seen as an antiquated category. But the complex musings over malts and wood types can be a refreshing thing for younger consumers.”

He says some of the company’s bestselling expressions – such as Arran Amarone Cask Finish – are providing “exciting new flavours” in the whisky category. “Younger consumers can and want to trade up to explore and try new tastes and experiences,” he adds. “Arran whisky provides this experience through innovative cask programmes while respecting whisky production.”

Colin Dunn, whisky brand ambassador at Diageo Reserve, agrees that Scotch is becoming an increasingly popular choice for younger drinkers.

He says: “The versatility of the spirit continues to drive consumer interest in the category, encouraging people to experiment with high- quality spirits mixed into simple serves which can be enjoyed at home – whether savoured neat, on the rocks or used as the base in a cocktail. Haig Club, orange and tonic is one of our staple serves and something people can easily create at home.”

Dunn highlights Talisker as “an excellent choice” for those selecting a special gift for Father’s Day. He says: “Made by the sea, this whisky embodies the Isle of Skye as much as its craftsmanship and heritage. The bold, smoky flavour - along with hints of spice - make it a perfect dram.”

Michael Vachon, co-founder and head of brand development at Maverick Drinks, points to the company’s That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC) as a brand with “pure innovation at its heart”.

He says: “TBWC takes its whiskies very seriously, but doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this opens up the category to less confident whisky drinkers, as well as providing interesting and limited bottlings for whisky fans and collectors. It is about discovering something you wouldn’t, or couldn’t, have tried before and this is driving sales for discerning drinkers and those who are just discovering the category.”

The company also has Wolfburn in its portfolio, which Vachon describes as “a brand rooted in tradition” yet one that takes a more modern approach to production.

He says: “This has allowed it to build a loyal following of Scotch drinkers, combining the innovative ideas of a new generation of craft distillers with traditional practices that are associated with quality Scotch production.”

In addition to the core range, Wolfburn regularly releases limited-edition bottlings. For Father’s Day, Maverick has collaborated with the Wolfburn team to hand-select a whisky that has been matured for four years in a single ex-oloroso sherry cask. There will be just 320 bottles available.

MALTS VERSUS BLENDS

Single malts are growing faster than blends, but many, including Indie Brands’ Djevdet, feel blended Scotch will see a resurgence. He says: “The art of blending is something we need to educate consumers about in order to shine a light on what makes a good blended malt Scotch. Appreciation comes from knowledge and understanding, along with great taste.”

Vachon at Maverick agrees that single malt Scotch has been positioned as the premium option, but he says blended Scotch is popular with two sets of consumers. “Discerning Scotch drinkers who understand that a blend can be equal in quality to a single malt, a way of combining the best components from multiple distilleries to create something new and delicious. They are looking for interesting combinations and flavour profiles, and that’s where That Boutique-y Whisky Company steps in to provide bottlings that can’t be found anywhere else.”

Also, he says, blends are a great introduction for new whisky drinkers who might be put off single malts by the high price point.

One area of growth is in non-age statement whiskies, the popularity of which is being fuelled by social media and younger drinkers. David Brown, managing director of John Crabbie & Co, says the “big reveal” from the Crabbie’s brand over the next few weeks will be non-age declared products to tap into what he describes as “one of the most dynamic sectors in whisky in the UK”. He says the producer has seen success for a number of its products. The first release under the Crabbie name was an eight-year-old whisky, which he says was “a real success” and it has fared well through the impulse sector.

He adds: “We work with different parts of the off-trade, so for independent specialists we have found that the 25 and 30-year-olds have been real successes for us. They were launched at the end of last year and earlier this year and both sold through really quickly.”

The popularity of lighter drinks is also working for whisky, with a revival of the Highball – a blend of whisky and water – and other cocktails.

Brown says: “Whisky makes great cocktails because it has great flavours. There used to be a lot of snobbery and this idea that it should only be drunk neat, but things have moved on and you can now drink it however you like. We push the Whisky Mac – Crabbie’s whisky mixed with Crabbie’s Green Ginger Wine) as it is a signature drink for us.”

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